DR Congo: UN mission helps investigation into assaults and sexual violence

DR Congo: UN mission helps investigation into assaults and sexual violence

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A human rights team with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has travelled with Congolese officials and doctors to investigate reports of mass rapes, looting and torture carried out by a group of Maï Maï militiamen last year.

The UN human rights team were accompanied last week by magistrates, lawyers and doctors who took statements and testimonies, as well as examined victims, in relation to the alleged attacks, which took place in the village of Lieke Lesole, some 360 kilometres north-east of Kisangani in Orientale province in north-eastern DRC.

The UN mission, known as MONUC, said in a statement today that on 21 July 2007 a group of Maï Maï militia, headed by Colonel Thoms, besieged the village and then took part in looting, torture and massive rapes of women and young girls under an operation called “Etakata” – meaning “cleansing” or “clean city”.

“Our village was humiliated. No house was spared,” said Marcel Lokua Lesole, chief of Yawende Loolo sector, where the village lies.

“We found 72 cases of sexual violence, including four rapes of expectant mothers which caused miscarriages, as well as torture and serious injuries to men. But for what reason?” said Akim Mumeme, a doctor and head of the visiting group’s medical unit, and focal point in the province’s fight against sexual violence.

The auditor of Kisangani’s military court, Captain Thom Mutombo, said that members of the Maï-Maï militia had already been arrested by the Congolese army and that the testimonies and statements taken last week meant that military tribunals could now begin.